I drove out to the suburbs last night to have dinner with my friend Lisa. I didn’t realize I was going to be on a toll road until I was on it with no cash money and no exit and no options. Nothing says city driving like pulling over to the side of the road and dumping your purse on the seat trying to scrounge $.80 while you wonder what happens if you don’t find it. I envisioned driving up to the toll booth operator (how people do that job without a high powered rifle is beyond me. I salute them.) and saying “I don’t have 80 cents.” What happens next? Do I get a free pass? Do I have to back up through rush hour traffic on a Friday night and exit? Can I make a break for it and bust right through, 80 cents be damned? Fortunately, I found hidden stash of change so it wasn’t a problem but my curious mind still wonders.
Lisa and I had dinner at Bien Trucha, a Mexican restaurant serving food that Frontera Grill only dreams about. All their food is served tapas style, perfect little plates for sharing, and they specialize in tacos. We ordered the Bien Trucha tacos, skirt steak and chorizo served with chiahuahua cheese and roasted tomatillo salsa (so good you want to lick the plate) and Barriga del Puerco: Roasted pork belly, salsa verde and queso fresco.
They also create a new guacamole and a new ceviche every day:
You like that guacamole spot light? I think the avocados were feeling especially dramatic tonight because of the addition of pineapple in the guacamole.
I had a spicy sparkly sour michelada to wash it all down.
We scarfed down most of the food we ordered and if we hadn’t been talking so much, I think we would have ordered more. We got there late because Bien Trucha is tiny, the wait is long, they don’t take reservations and it’s shoulder to shoulder crowded with people eating, waiting to eat, thinking about eating and drinking in anticipation of eating. However, like so many other small places with great food, it’s worth every minute of the wait. Do like we did and put your name on the wait list and then go have a drink at any of the surrounding bars. They’re used to serving Bien Trucha’s waiting customers so go ahead and throw some money their way and then everyone benefits. Bien Trucha will call you when they have a table open and if you go in a month, you can sit on the patio. Tacos, micheladas and warm weather? Deliciosa!
The next morning we got up and did yoga in Glen Ellyn at 26 Hot. Lisa practices there regularly and this marks the first time I’ve gotten a chance to do Bikram with someone that I know. I loved it. Lisa and I have known each other a long time and we did theatre training together in college, training that incorporated a lot of body work inclusive of yoga. Doing Bikram with her felt like we were back in college and I felt myself drawing on her energy and giving back to her when she needed it. Lovely. Bikram is hard and it’s beneficial to do it with people that you know and love. I’ve learned so much from so many teachers on the road but I would relish any chance I had to do yoga with my friends.
Our teacher Chris had a brusque manner but said such insightful things about the poses that I think of him as the drill instructor Buddha. He also vocalized something I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of classes, namely the importance of where my eyes go when I go into a pose.
My yoga meditation of the day is: set your intent by putting your eyes there first.
It’s no mistake that the first direction in a pose is “look up” and then “go up.” Where my eyes go, my body follows. I find that my eyes are never going as far up or back as they can go. It’s a challenge to look that far. It’s a challenge to think of how much further I could be going and how limited I feel with the body I have today. The challenge is always to go further but I can’t go further without looking further first. I like the term “far sighted.” It implies looking beyond what’s evident, peeling back the top layer and looking inside. I want to be far sighted so I can get to places that I can’t even verbalize or fathom right now. I’m learning to look up so I can go up.
Drove back to the city at midday through horrific stop-go traffic (at 2pm! On a Saturday!!), again scrounging change from the bottom of my purse for a bunch of random tolls. I’m down to pennies now so I’m in real trouble if I run into something unexpected tomorrow before I get to a bank.
I had an early dinner with my friend Cassie at Old Town Social, which is a butcher pub, or whatever the term might be for a place that specializes in both meat and beer. We had incredible frites with aioli, mac and cheese where the mac was long curly noodles and the cheese was legion, flat bread with lamb sausage and goat cheese and a selection of charcuterie, pickles and cheeses that were worth the whole price of the check. The atmosphere runs heavily to big, dark, masculine and wood oriented making it the perfect location to drink a dark beer and eat every cured meat imaginable. Go do it.
Since this is my last post in Chicago, I’m leaving you with two Chicago curiosities. The first is something I stumbled across at The Wormhole Coffee:
Recognize this license plate?
That’s a DeLorean built to replicate the one from Back to the Future. The shop owner – an 80’s child with a movie obsession – bought the car without the engine and assembled it in the store, adding all the Back to the Future specialty pieces like a “flux capacitor.”
As well as a heap of 80’s movie toys, posters and shmada, including a model of the movie car.
He’s also quite serious about coffee and they even serve espresso over cocoa puffs for their trademark “Mocha Puffs.” If only you could watch the Smurfs while you eat it. I think TVs showing classic 80’s movies and cartoons should be his next addition in this coffee shop, don’t you?
On a completely different note, my last gift to you is pictures of the apparition of the Virgin Mary on the wall of the Kennedy Expressway. She appeared in 2005 and since then a small shrine has grown up around her. I call her Our Lady of the Salt Stain:
They’ve covered her with Plexiglas after numerous vandals defaced her:
I find myself touched by this show of faith and the human need to see God revealed in a physical way. Was the Virgin Mary here and did she leave her mark on this wall? Does it matter? I don’t think it needs to be a miracle. I think people come to light candles to remember what they believe and to pray to someone they think will hear them. Sometimes it’s easier to find God on the highway than in a church. And as long as people light candles here in the underpass, those people driving through will have a moment to see this shrine and perhaps to think about whatever it is that they believe in.
Goodbye Chicago. And goodnight.